A Guide on How to Clean Headliner

October 19, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Jane Davis

Apart from being a freelance writer and moving expert, Jane is also an art and museum lover.

Unless you’re a particularly tall person, you probably never paid much attention to the ceiling of your car because you didn’t have the need. However, although it is not so small, this area is often overlooked when polishing the interior. Think about it, how many times did you try to wash it, and do you even know how to clean the headliner? No worries, it is not the end of the world if you’ve never done it because we are going to show you how to do it like a pro.

If you don’t touch it, it can’t get dirty, right? Wrong. The car ceiling is like the ceiling of your home. You don’t often get in contact, but somehow it gets dirty over time, especially if you’re smoking inside, or you killed a bug and left a stain as a warning sign to other bug-intruders. It just needs to be a bit refreshed from time to time. If you want your vehicle to shine inside and outside like it’s the president’s limo, you should learn how to clean the car ceiling, and that’s why we are here today to share with you some tips and tricks on how to do it with ease.

Whether You’re Driving a Popular New Car or a Used One, You Should Pay Attention to Headliners

Perhaps you skipped watching the best TV show about cars, or you weren’t paying attention to car driving tips for beginners at drivers school, but before you start driving, you should really get to know all components of a car. And, unless you’re driving a cabrio, your vehicle will certainly come with a headliner. When buying a used car like some of the best import cars, or buying a car from a dealer who purchased from an auction, a quick look at its ceiling could tell you a lot about its maintenance and overall condition.

Previous owners usually remove dog hair from the car, replace or clean seat belts, steering wheel, and polish the dashboard. Only those who really took proper care of their vehicle and maintained it throughout the years will always remember to wash the interior roof. So this could be a good indicator of the car’s actual condition and age.

We share only proven methods, so no need to worry about how to clean the roof of the car.
Using one of these methods will help your car roof shine like it's brand new.

We Research For You: How Headliners Are Constructed and What’s Their Daily Purpose?

Before we jump into how to clean the car interior roof part, we first need to see what it’s made of. This is important because it impacts on the choice of cleaning supplies you’ll use. In the majority of cases, headliners are manufactured in one piece. Meaning that if it gets damaged, you have to replace it entirely. There are no parts that could be detached or replaced. The majority of headliners is constructed out of three different material layers:

  • A foam layer that goes right above the metal roof and helps with sound deadening and insulation
  • A layer of cardboard or fiberglass that serves as a backing material that’s molded into the shape of the roof
  • The final layer that gets attached is usually made of some sort of fabric, leather, or vinyl. Although vinyl and leather are not so standard nowadays, if you have them, make sure you use proper cleaning supplies that won’t damage the material.

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The Importance of Headliners

Besides the obvious purpose of protecting passengers and covering the metal roof, headliners are important for several reasons. Headliners contribute to the vehicle’s insulation, keeping the cool or hot air inside so that when AC or heater are turned on, their effect is more noticeable.

Most modern vehicles also come with a foam layer that actually calms down the vibrations and reduces the noise inside. So if you had a feeling that your car is very quiet when working, it is partially due to the headliners. And then, there is that aesthetic moment, which is why you should know how to clean a car headliner. Headliners give that sleek final touch to the vehicle; there would be just bare metal roof construction without them.

Those who smoke inside their cars should wash them more often.
Your interior roof fabric should be cleaned regularly using an appropriate solution that won't deteriorate the fabric liner.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Clean a Headliner – Roundup of the Best Techniques and Resources

When it comes to cleaning, there are different types of “problems” or stains you might have to deal with. It is not the same if you use your car only for city driving or off-road driving, not to mention if you smoke cigarettes inside while cruising down the most famous routes in the United States. Cigarettes might help you lower down driving stress or driving anxiety, but smoke is one of the worst enemies of all materials used for headliners.

There will be a lot of things you’ll learn about your car, from changing a flat tire to adjusting the parking brake and adding brake fluid. But keeping it clean, not just from the outside, should be among your priorities from day one because there’s really no science behind it. This is something we all can and should do. However, you have to be cautious with what you’re treating upholstery because you don’t want to damage it. That’s why we divided this into three categories and offered a solution for each type of problem. Let’s take a look.

Method 1: Spot Cleaning Minor Stains

In case there’s just a spot or two covering a small area, using a microfiber cloth and appropriate upholstery cleaner could be enough to remove the stain quickly.

  • Start by gently brushing the spot and trying to wipe it with a microfiber cloth. Avoid any pressure because you don’t want to push the dirt more in-depth into the upholstery. If you manage to wipe it this way, you’re all good. If not, you need to proceed to the next step.
  • If that didn’t work, the next step would be to add the cleaner. You apply or spray a small amount directly to the cloth, not to the upholstery. And then gently start wiping the spot, without saturating too deeply into the foam. Wait for it to fully dry, so you can inspect whether or not you managed to wipe it entirely. If the stain is still there, consider the next method.

Method 2: How to Clean Headliner Surface

If the previous combination was not enough to get rid of a persistent dirt spot, then it’s time to step up your game. You’ll have to clean a larger surface, and here’s how you should do it:

  • Evenly spray the entire surface with appropriate upholstery cleaner. Foaming cleaners have the power to break dirt trapped just a little bit below the surface, which is why they are usually the best solution. Take a look at the container to see how long you should let it sit and wait for the magic to happen.
  • After the time has run out, take a bristled brush, and go over the entire surface. It is essential to brush every section because once everything dries, there might be a visible difference between the brushed and unbrushed parts.
  • Now you should let everything dry. Depending on the amount of cleaner you applied, it should take an hour or two for this process. However, if even this didn’t help, and there is still some visible dirt, it might be needed to repeat this entire process one more time. And if that doesn’t help, it is time to bring in the heavy guns.

Method 3: Perform a Deep Cleaning Using These Tips

Deep cleaning is not something that should be your go-to option. Too much moisture and heat can impact the glue that’s holding all the layers together, and lead to sagging and deterioration. So always try the first two methods, and if none of them helps, you should get a deep cleaning system, hot water, a stain remover, and follow these steps to clean the roof of the car:

  • First, you need to prepare the machine by filling it with hot water and adequate cleaning liquid. Check the instructions of the machine to see how much water should be mixed with the cleansing solution. Also, make sure to use the type of cleaner that’s suitable for your device.
  • Check the instructions to see if the machine needs to be preheated, and turn it on. Add a little adapter to the nose, and slowly start from the corners. You should move it around 3-4 inches per second. If you notice that the fabric is getting soaked, move the machine faster.
  • Move the machine over the surface in strokes of around 24 inches, always a bit overlapping the next stroke with the one before. You should strive to go over the entire surface in even strokes that go in the same direction and approximately equal speed.
  • Expect that this will dry much slower, approximately 24 hours, and it is recommended to turn on the fans to increase the air circulation. Open your windows if the car is parked inside a secure environment with a stable climate.
  • Once it is dry, go over the entire surface with your palm to remove any dry fabric grains and leftovers from the cleaner.

Take a Look at This Video for More Ideas on How to Clean Headliner in Car

Stains from smoking inside of cars are the worst because you really need to wash the entire surface. Smoke doesn’t just leave a small dirty spot. Some people even use steamers, but others think outside of the box and combine a polishing machine with a microfiber pad. Let’s check out how that looks and works.

YouTube video

How to Remove Bad Odor From Headliners

Besides stains, headliners tend to hold bad smells, and no one wants that in its car. However, those who smoke will undoubtedly know what we are talking about, so here is a quick recipe on a mixture that will help you remove bad odors. You can use this regularly as a precaution measure that will also slow down the process of creating those nasty smoke stains.

How to Make Your Headliner Deodorizer

Here is what you’ll need to mix up for this small DIY project:

  • ¼ of white vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • One tablespoon of baking soda
  • A few drops of any essential oil for smell
  • Microfiber cloth

Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and shake it well. Spray the solution onto the cloth, and then gently dab it onto the roof, while trying not to oversaturate it. Do not apply this mixture directly onto headliners because it could soak them and lead to mildew. Once it dries, go over the entire surface with a vacuum cleaner to remove any remains of baking soda.

If you want to share your car with others, you should maintain it regularly.
The interior of the car is much more pleasant after using a refreshing spray and removing all the stains and odors.

Make Sure You Know How to Clean a Headliner Before Booking Car Shipping Services

In case you’re getting ready to pack a car for moving or prepare a car for shipping, it is always recommended to wash it thoroughly. Whether you opt for enclosed auto transport or an open trailer for shipping a car cross country, you should always wash it outside and inside and take pictures of its condition. A reliable auto transport company will ensure that your door to door auto transport runs smoothly, but since car shipping takes time, you certainly don’t want to be surprised by a funky smell once you open your car. So if we could give you any final car shipping advice, it would be to prepare it thoroughly for this journey.

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